The Media Center
Compiling a Profile of Staff Technology Skills
by Mary Alice  AndersonLead Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, Winona, Minnesota
MultiMedia Schools • January/February 2002 
In 1997 our staff participated in a paper/pencil self-assessment of their technology skills. That assessment, the need for assessment, and other assessment tools were my "Media Center" topic in November/December 2000. In this month's column, I address how we implemented a follow-up assessment using Profiler, an online collaboration tool. We accessed Profiler at the High Plains Regional Technology in Education Consortium, one of 10 such consortiums funded by the U.S. Department of Education. Profiler is found at http://profiler.hprtec.org. There is no cost to use the instrument.
 

The Need for Data
Last year all Minnesota school districts were required to update district technology plans. Among the required components was increased attention to staff development and evaluation. Our plan, approved by the Winona Area Public Schools board, states:

The district will conduct a follow-up assessment of staff technology competencies. This assessment will provide data that will be an addition to the baseline data collected in December 1997. The assessment will assess staff skills and use of technology as a tool for teaching.

Following completion of the assessment, teachers will work with their administrator to develop a personal growth plan; they will develop steps toward greater technology literacy using competency-based rubrics that address technology skills and rubrics that address using technology for educational restructuring. Data from the assessment will be used to help each building address technology in its building improvement plan. Data will be used to show effective use of technology and media resources.

Evaluation processes will be used to help unify the technology plan, curricular goals, and building improvement plans.


Let's Not Reinvent the Wheel
The assessment was scheduled for this past September. We knew our 1997 assessment needed updating and that another paper/pencil self-assessment would be time-consuming. We also knew there were multiple online surveys from which to choose. We selected Profiler based on its success in a district similar to ours, ease of use, immediate feedback provided to the individual taking the assessment, and ease in data analysis. Of course, the fact that Profiler is free was also a factor.

I registered our district to create an account and district ID. A subcommittee of the technology committee, which included a school board member, a principal, and our curriculum director, sampled the 30-question Profiler Basic Skills Checklist survey (see Figure 1 below). The checklist can be used by anyone who logs onto the site. We also asked media staff and a core group of technology-using teachers to take the survey and provide input. Everyone thought the survey was both easy to use and an "eye-opener."

Our next step was to develop our own survey. We used some questions from the Profiler Basic Skills survey, edited others to better assess our district's capabilities, deleted some questions, and added some of our own for a total of 40 questions, the maximum allowed. We also looked at other surveys in the Profiler Survey Libraryand reused some questions from our district's 1997 survey. Our final 40 questions are represented by six categories.

  • Operating System (5 questions)
  • Troubleshooting/Maintenance (7 questions)
  • Tool Applications (6 questions)
  • Internet and Telecommunications (5 questions)
  • Multimedia (5 questions)
  • Curriculum Integration and Instruction (12 questions)
The high number of questions in curriculum integration and instruction was a change from the 1997 survey, which included only a few questions in that category. We dropped the detail from some of our earlier questions but provided specific examples when we thought it would add clarification. For example, the question about the usage of online resources specifically lists resources the district provides:
Use District and State provided Databases (World Book, Grolier's Media Center Catalogs, Gale Junior Reference ProQuest, and InfoTrac Newspapers) to research topics using keywords, search directories, and Boolean logic.
Survey participants rank their abilities on a scale of 1-4. To view all of the Winona Basic Skills Checklist questions, log on to Profiler and search for Winona in the survey library.

Support staff at the High Plains Regional Technology Consortium placed our survey online and created an account for each of the schools in our district. We established multiple categories for each building:

  • Teachers
  • Paraprofessionals
  • Secretaries
  • Other
During the survey development process I met with our district's principals and the district staff development committee to keep them informed of the plans. I also presented the plans to the district school board, a group that is always interested in staff skills. Less than 2 days total time was needed to prepare the survey, meet with the committee, and communicate with High Plains Regional Technology in Education Consortium staff by e-mail or phone. We placed a direct link to Profiler on our district Web site to make logging in easy.

ProfilerImplementation
We thought it would be best if teachers took the survey in their own building and under the direction of building colleagues. Our staff development director funded a 2-hour meeting for building representatives prior to the fall workshop. They learned how to log in to Profiler, create an account, and take the survey. They also became familiar with the district technology plan's requirements for assessment and a personal growth plan. Several administrators took the survey when I met with them. They all had comments such as, "I guess I need to take more classes," or, "I have a lot to learn."

Because Profiler is a collaboration tool, others can view an individual's results, unless the individual elects not to share them. Profiler also displays a list of "Experts" for each question. Experts are participants who rank themselves as fluent when completing the survey. Sharing results and the list of experts are both intended to establish learning communities and teams that will work with each other. We offered staff the option of not sharing results, but encouraged them to share.

Survey completion went better than I expected; a few people had difficulty logging in and completing an account, but most completed it within 15 minutes. Secondary staff took the survey during the opening day workshop; elementary staff took the surveys in their classrooms or building labs during September. Over 90 percent of the teaching staff completed the survey by the end of September, the designated time for completion. The process promoted good discussion and questions as participants received immediate feedback and viewed individual scores. The power of motivation exists in what you should know. Typical comments were, "I'm excited," or, "Now I know what I need to know and do." I didn't hear the grumbling that I had expected.
 

Compiling Building and District Data
As survey administrator I was able to download all individual scores and import all the data from each participant into an Excel spreadsheet, which could then be used to produce graphs. This became a case of data overload as it meant working with a spreadsheet of over 300 rows and over 40 columns. Instead I viewed the data for each building and entered it in a spreadsheet from which I created graphs. It took only 2 hours to download, print, and work with the data for almost 300 teachers. I created graphs for each building and each skill category. This information was then shared with the district's principals and the district staff development committee. Profiler data is dynamic; building and district scores shift if more people take the survey or if a significant number of staff retake the survey.
 

Next Step: Personal Growth Plans
As specified in our District Technology Plan, teachers are asked to develop and complete a Personal Growth Plan that focuses on technology skills. There are many models of personal growth plans ranging from simple to complex. We decided a simple, one-page plan would yield the best results; busy teachers do not need more paperwork. Each person's Personal Growth Plan should relate to personal needs, resources within his or her building, and the curriculum for which he or she is responsible. The proposed plan was presented to principals and the district staff development committee before it became final. The plan requires teachers to respond to the following:

  • In the Profiler self-assessment I described myself as fluent in these areas ...
  • I would like to improve in these areas ...
  • My goals for this year:
  • Productivity software goal (Example: word processing, GradeQuick, PowerPoint)
  • Curriculum integration goal (Example: multimedia presentations, online databases)
  • Process for learning:Classes I will take; people who will help me. (Refer to Profiler list of experts.)
  • Assessment:What did I learn? What went well?
Vetoed from the plan was an administrator signature because of the fear that the personal growth plan would be used in teacher evaluation. It was explained:
The plan is not intended as part of teacher evaluation, however, a principal may discuss your plan with you to encourage you to improve your technology skills. Staff who would like assistance in developing a personal growth plan can receive assistance from their principal, a co-worker, and members of the district technology committee.
While our district technology plan asks all teachers to complete a personal growth plan, it may be more realistic to set a less extensive goal the first year and work towards 100 percent completion of a personal growth plan within 2 to 3 years.

In order for our plans to be successful we are encouraging:

  • district-wide support systems and technology coaches, peer assistance coaches—identification of the people in each building who will provide support.
  • incentives for coaches and participants.
  • deeper administrative understanding.
  • understanding of the possibilities and what can be done with technology.
  • learning opportunities at each building.
Stay tuned for our progress as we move to stage two.
 
The Winona Area Public Schools 
Technology information is found at:

http://www.winona.k12.mn.us/media_technology.html

Included here are:

  • The Winona Area Public Schools Technology Plan

  •  
  • Profiler

  •  
  • The Winona Area Public Schools Technology Personal Growth Form

Mary Alice Anderson is a frequent contributor to professional journals, a conference presenter, and an adjunct instructor in the College of Education at Winona State University. The Winona Middle School Media/Technology Program has received both state and national recognition and awards. She is also the lead media specialist for the Winona Area Public Schools and was a Library of Congress American Memory Fellow in 1999. Communications to the author may be addressed to Mary Alice Anderson, Media Specialist, Winona Middle School, 1570 Homer Road, Winona, MN 55987; e-mail: maryalic@wms.luminet.net.

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